Giving Myself Credit

May 16, 2017

I’m exhausted. I’m changing my anti-depressants again. I went off of one that was making me feel crazy, like actually crazy. I have an appointment on Wednesday with the doctor. Not sure how long the withdrawal from the one I went off takes – it wasn’t that high a dose so maybe I’m imagining things but I feel exhausted and am really craving sugar.

And you know what? Right now I’m eating the sugar. That’s not a fight I’m willing to have with myself right now. The sugar is comforting, and I’m eating it. I’m not harming myself in any drastic ways, I’m not self-medicating with alcohol or drugs… I’m going to eat the damn cake. For now.

And I’m trying to focus on what I HAVE gotten done today. Yes, I took a 2-hour nap in the middle of the day even though I slept enough. Yes, I dropped my bike and scratched up the new bike that I love. I left things places that I’ll have to go pick up tomorrow because I’m so tired that I am getting really absent-minded. And yes, I’m going to bed at 9 pm.

But also: I tutored four kids today and I think they learned something. I edited three articles and answered a ton of emails and went grocery shopping and rode my bike. That all counts. And I prayed. And I ate. And I took my medicine.

So I’m going to try very hard to convince myself that today is a win.

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No, I’m Not OK.

August 26, 2012

I’m actually doing OK right this minute.  If you’ve been reading, you know it’s been a hard summer.  Really really hard.  A lot of good things happening for other people that I want to rejoice in but my heart hurts.  A lot of med changes that work in some ways and are horrible in other ways.  A lot of grief about the summer being so sad – I was looking forward to it, damn it!  But right this second, I feel OK, but breakable.

That’s where I got the name of the blog, (which I may have explained in the first post) because we are saints, we are part of the community of God’s saints, but I am very, very broken.  Three was a time when you could see that on me, visually.  I’ve always had some way of dealing with the pain of depression.  Often it was just sleeping.  Sometimes eating, sometimes not eating.  For a very brief period of time, it was drinking, alone (the train of thought being “I can’t be an alcoholic even though there’s basically no chance I am not one, genetically, and even though I am drinking alone in my room because I am sad and I need to STOP FEELING RIGHT NOW.  I can’t be an alcoholic!  I didn’t start drinking until I was 29!  And it’s just wine!” More on that in another post).

But the behavior that “helped” me the most was cutting.  So, if this is going to be a problem to read, you might want to stop now.  I haven’t written about it up until now because it’s so personal and it’s SO shameful.

When I was a little kid – and I was depressed from VERY early on – I realized that physically hurting myself made me feel better emotionally.  I had a ring that my grandmother had given me that had a sharp edge on it and I would press it into my hand.  The pain would make life a little more bearable right at that moment. Because my life was very not bearable.  I sprained my ankle several times, once by climbing a tree in a floor-length velvet party dress (not sure what my mother was thinking letting me wear that), and once by stepping in a gopher hole, and I realized that not only did the pain make me able to live in my own skin, but people could see that there was something wrong with me.  

They didn’t know I was depressed and wanted to die – I didn’t really have words for that.  But they knew that I was hurt and so they made an effort to help me.  It wasn’t the kind of help I needed, but there was such a relief to people seeing – visibly – that there was something wrong with me, that I decided to be hurt as much as I could.  I have a very strong memory of stomping on my bad ankle with my other foot to try to make it sprained again, and not seeing anything wrong with that – that I was consciously trying to injury myself.

I stopped that when I was a teenager, and until I was an adult.  I had horrible horrible depressive phases where I was almost catatonic and I mostly went to sleep as an escape.  I have no idea what people thought of me then or how visible it was.  When I was about 26 or 27 though, I found cutting.

I never got very “good” at cutting because I’m actually kind of a wimp about blood, which is ironic.  But I found that straight razor blades provided a good stinging sensation and X-acto knives were even better, and there was something incredibly satisfying about injuring myself.  It made me feel numb which is all I was looking for, and it gave me some relief from the feeling that I didn’t deserve anything better for some reason.  I did it mostly where people couldn’t see.  On my stomach was easy, especially in the winter, as sweaters hide everything.  On my left wrist was harder but again, the winter is a good time for long sleeves.  I never did it deep enough to leave scars and it was never a suicide attempt or anything close to it.  I just needed the feelings to stop.

At one point, I was really not doing well.  My Bible Study was aware of this, I had been asking for prayer, and I wasn’t even pretending any more.  When someone asked me if I was OK, I would say, “NO, I’m not OK.”  And usually they wouldn’t know what to do and would probably wish they hadn’t asked.  At one point, I went to a SuperBowl party.  I hate football but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went and I sat on the stairs at my friends house and sobbed through the whole game.   I had been cutting before the game because quite honestly, it felt like the choice between that and driving my car off a cliff.  A friend from my Bible Study came up to me and asked if I was OK.  I said no.  My sleeve fell back a little and he saw my wrist and said, “You’re NOT OK!”

I thought of this because of my last post.  People seem to need some kind of visual or a malady that they can understand.  I had been begging for help and no one got it until they saw my wrist.  Last weekend I really really wanted to take that approach again.  I didn’t because I could survive, and my life is not unbearable even if sometimes it feels like it for a short period of time.  But I really wanted to.  Just to make my outside match my insides.  To show, “Look, THIS is how much I hurt.  Can you see now?”

I stopped drinking and cutting (again, hadn’t gotten to what anyone else would probably see as a major problem but I know myself and I couldn’t have stopped if I had waited) both on Dec 30, 2005.  This was partly because I realized that no one in my family who had ever used alcohol as a way to numb themselves had ever turned out well.  It’s not a beverage to me, wine, it is a feelings management system, and that’s dangerous.  But also because of something my therapist had said.  I had told her about the cutting but not the drinking because I felt so silly since it was not “real” drinking).  She told me it would make me feel better temporarily but it would make the feelings I was trying to avoid last longer. And I thought to myself, “I will not survive if these feelings last longer.”

So I stopped.  But I miss it.  Them.  This summer has been a time for both wanting to numb feelings and for wanting to show other people how hard it is to be me.  How much it hurts.

The other thing is that I don’t have any scars from cutting.  I should, even though I didn’t cut very deeply.  I have scars from paper cuts and mosquito bites.  I scar very easily.  But I have none.  Most of the time, I can see this as God’s grace to me.  Sometimes I wish I did have them.  Because again, they’d be tangible proof of the pain I’ve been through and that even when I look OK, things have been really really hard in the past.


The Far-Reaching Effects of Suicide

August 7, 2012

A member of my church committed suicide last month. I didn’t know him – his wife and I had some mutual facebook friends and I have probably met her but I wouldn’t have known him if I had bumped into him on the street. I wouldn’t have expected someone who was a total stranger to affect me like this but it has for a number of reasons. {If reading about suicide is not a good thing for you at this moment, by all means, don’t do it. Just thought I’d say that)

I have lost two people who were important to me to suicide. One was an uncle who was one of the most creative, loving, inspiration people I have ever met – when he wasn’t drowning in mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism. He tried for decades to get sober and hung himself when he was being sentenced for abusing his girlfriend. Obviously, this devastated our family, although it wasn’t really a surprise. He had a 14-year old daughter at the time. I was incredibly sad but not super angry, maybe because I wasn’t surprised. Mostly sad.

Another was a friend from college. We weren’t particularly close in the normal way but we were youth group leaders together and that creates a really special bond. He knew that I struggled with depression and he even knew when I was briefly hospitalized because of it. I think that’s why my main reaction was anger when I found out he had been diagnosed with depression for years and ended up taking his life. He wasn’t messing around either – he had it set up so that if the gunshot didn’t kill him, the fall would have.

I was heartbroken at this too, but also furious. He knew what I was dealing with, how dare he not let me know that he was going through the same thing! Not just for himself, but I would have felt a lot less alone. He was one of those people who gave and gave and didn’t let us know what he needed. I feel cheated by that – I didn’t get to know my friend like I could have and I didn’t get to help someone who helped me.

As someone who has been depressed enough that I wanted to die and fantasized about dying, other people’s suicides affect me by making me feel like it’s a possibility for me. there’s always been kind of a wall up – I know I won’t do it no matter how much I want to. I’m not always sure why, but I know I won’t. I’ve been through periods of self-harm but I knew it would never go that far. But suicides of people in my life make me think, “Oh, maybe it is OK. Maybe I could do it. Maybe that is one way out of the pain.”

Thankfully, I haven’t been in that much pain in a few years so I’ve been thinking much less about suicide. But I still tend to react when people talk about how selfish it is. Of course it’s selfish. You’re not thinking about anyone but yourself (except when your thinking is so twisted that you start assuming everyone else is better off without you), but there’s a reason for that. When people are in enough pain, I don’t think they can think of anyone else. I know I couldn’t. It hurts so badly – physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way – so much pain that you’ve lost your survival instinct and are ready to end it all… I think depression IS inherently selfish because there’s just nothing left at all for anyone else.

I’m rambling because this is a hard subject for me, but there’s something that this bereaved family did that I think was incredibly brave. They told people what happened. In the announcement at church and in the obituary online, they didn’t say “suddenly passed away” or any other euphemism. They said that he struggled and he took his own life. I’ve been trying to find the words to explain why I think that is so important but I haven’t been able to. It’s the truth and that somehow feels honoring of him. It’s an admission that he was ill. And maybe it will make someone else feel less alone or get help? I’m not sure, but I think it was so brave to say.


The Medication Dance

June 19, 2012

As anyone with a “mood disorder” knows far too well, medications can be difficult.  I think even most doctors will agree that it’s a lot of trial and error – and when you’re talking about your mental health, “error” is not what you want.  I started on Prozac when I was 20, almost 17 years ago.  Since then, I’ve had a series of medications regiments that worked somewhat – I was so used to being depressed, that I didn’t realize I had only gone from severely depressed to mildly depressed – for the next 14 years.  Finally, after a pretty major breakdown which involved an emergency room visit and an outpatient program, I got put on a medication which actually brought me up to not being depressed – a whole new level for me.

After 3 1/2 years of being pretty stable, my doctor and I decided it was time to address the fact that one of the medications might be giving me some anxiety.  I tapered this medication down very,very slowly, and was fine, mood-wise, so I even allowed myself to think for a minute that maybe one day I could be medication-free!  (probably not going to happen).  Although I was not depressed, I started having more trouble sleeping, so we decided to re-introduce that one slowly.  Frustrating, but it made sense.

Well, even though I’m on THE EXACT SAME COMBINATION as I was a year ago, it’s not working well.  I’m anxious and I’m crying easily and feeling sad and lonely.  I suppose some of it could be external but it coincides perfectly with putting that one medication back in.  It’s known to have anxiety as a side effect, so that makes sense, except that was on it before!  And I suppose the depression could have followed from the anxiety.  Or my body chemistry could have changed.  I don’t know but it is frustrating and discouraging.  And I am really not wanting to do trial and error again.

This also freaks me out because even one day of anxiety/depression can catapult me right back into what it feels like to be in the pit of despair, not able to get out of bed and not able to see any hope in anything.  I’m not even close to that but these little pills might be all that’s standing between me and that situation and that is truly terrifying.


Having it Out With Melancholy

February 8, 2012

If you’ve never read this poem by Jane Kenyon, do it.

I was thinking about this poem the other day because there are so many parts that I feel like were written just for me. Someone showed it to me in college and I photocopied it and carried it around for years. I just recently thought of it again (how exciting that depression hasn’t been on my mind as much!) and had to search for it. I’d love to hear what other people think of it and which parts strike you.

For me, the first section is far too true. I have had some form of depression for as long as I can remember. I have very vivid memories of waking up before kindergarten and wanting to be dead. Nothing bad was happening at school but my family was a mess and I was not happy being alive. Kenyon says:

1  FROM THE NURSERY 

When I was born, you waited

behind a pile of linen in the nursery,

and when we were alone, you lay down

on top of me, pressing

the bile of desolation into every pore. 

 

And from that day on

everything under the sun and moon

made me sad — even the yellow

wooden beads that slid and spun

along a spindle on my crib. 

You taught me to exist without gratitude.

You ruined my manners toward God:

“We’re here simply to wait for death;

the pleasures of earth are overrated.”

 

I only appeared to belong to my mother,

to live among blocks and cotton undershirts

with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes

and report cards in ugly brown slipcases.

I was already yours — the anti-urge,

the mutilator of souls.

 

“everything under the sun and moon made me sad.”

That was true for me for over 30 years.

I was also struck by:

 4  OFTEN

 Often I go to bed as soon after dinner

as seems adult

(I mean I try to wait for dark)

in order to push away

from the massive pain in sleep’s

frail wicker coracle.

 

And

 

6  IN AND OUT 

The dog searches until he finds me

upstairs, lies down with a clatter

of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

 

Sometimes the sound of his breathing

saves my life — in and out, in

and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . .

 

The whole poem is still hard for me to read – and I have been “in remission” for three years now.  I don’t remember the despair in a visceral way anymore but I remember it.

It’s like when you have a really bad bruise and you get so used to it hurting when touched.  For the first few days after it doesn’t hurt, I still expect the pain.  I think that’s where I am with depression.

 

 


Heart Pain

August 2, 2010

Sometimes when I was really depressed, my heart would hurt.  I don’t mean that I was sad – although I was.  Or, more hopeless than sad.  Despairing.  But my heart would hurt like I was having a heart attack.  I would sometimes just sit clutching my chest because the pain was so strong.  That wasn’t the only physical symptom I had . I would also sometimes have trouble seeing.  I would think that there was something wrong with my contacts because everything was blurry, and then remember that I was wearing my glasses.  I would have to squint to see things and think about what I was looking at because a trash can could look like a mailbox.  My brain wasn’t working correctly.  I’m finding that – not having been depressed for a year and a half now – I don’t really remember what these symptoms felt like.  It was a terrifying combination though, both the physical symptom and then the feeling that I was going crazy.

Has anyone else experienced symptoms like this?


This Time, I Caught It

December 8, 2009

I’m on two medications – they work really well together – and I’ve tried many. About a year ago, the pharmacy gave me a different type of generic than I usually get for one of them. I didn’t think it would matter, since they were both generic, but it mattered. I started going way down – all the classic depression symptoms. And I didn’t notice. I started feeling like this was how I have always felt and always will feel, my life was over, on and on.

It was the medication. When I went back to the regular kind, I was fine. But it took me months of being absolutely miserable.

This time, I caught it in two days. That’s a good sign, right?